Incredible Proud History Full of Spirit - Sacred City of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a country with a rich and great ancient history spanning 1000 years. One of the most famous historic capitals is the sacred Buddhist city Anuradhapura is estimated 2500-3000 years old. It was the Sri Lanka's very first capital of 4th century BC to 11th century AD.

Anuradhapura was the heart of gorgeous Sinhalese Buddhist civilization. It is an attractive place to visit if you wish to learn a bit more about the interesting history and rich culture of this beautiful country.Ruled by 113 successive Kings and 4 queens, Anuradhapura is a majestic place of magnificent palaces,  beautiful gardens, giant stupas, elegant sculptures and grand Buddhist Temples. It is in the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka, Kandy, Sigiriya ,Dambulla, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.


The 3 major ‘Stupa’ (a dome-shaped building erected as a Buddhist shrine)- 'Ruwanweliseya', 'Mirisawetiya', 'Jethawanaramaya' are the biggest architectural creations of the ancient world smaller in size only to the pyramids of Giza. 

The 1st ruler of Anuradhapura was the King Pandukabhaya in 377AD. His grand son King Dewanampiyatissa was ruling the country when Buddhism was brought to Sri Lanka by Arhath Mihindu thero. From this moment onwards all kings sponsored to the temples and they thought constructing temples, stupas, buddha statues were in their responsibilities. Simultaneously great civilization developed based on one of the greatest religions of South East Asia, Buddhism.


Sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi

The main reason for the historical city of Anuradhapura to become a sacred city was the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. It is one of the most sacred Buddhist religious sites in Sri Lanka and the world.

Sri Maha Bodhi Tree on Golden supports

Lord Gautama Buddha is admired as the greatest human being appeared on earth. He attained Samma Sambouddha (enlightenment) while meditating with his back against it under the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree by the river Neranjana in the Buddhagaya. Anuradhapura Jaya sri Maha Bodhi is the southern branch of the Sri Maha Bodhi tree located in Dambadiwa.

According to the Buddhist history, this Bodhi tree is the only living artifact that touched the Lord Buddha. Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is the oldest living human planted tree in the world with a known planting date.

The Bodhi tree is a species of fig native to the Indian ubcontinent belongs to fig or mulberry family. It aslo known as Pippala tree, peepal tree, 'Ashastha' in Sanskrit, and 'Esathu' in Sinhala.This Sacred Fig tree known Botanically asFicus religiosa’ taking into account its religious significance.

Bodhi Premises

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi premises represents of 5 stages. They are Welimaluwa, Viharamaluwa, Devalamaluwa, Ranvetamaluwa, and Udamaluwa. Jaya Siri Maha Bodhi tree is living in ‘Udamaluwa,’ and it is the highest level of the premises.This level guarded by ‘Ranvetamaluwa’ with golded railings. You cannot get too close to the tree itself. People can worship the Bodhi tree by offering flowers and Pooja at Viharamaluwa and also Devalamaluwa. The temple is in Viharamaluwa. 


We can see the crowds of people paying homage and chanting at the welimaluwa in anytime of the day. This is one of the most magnificent place in Anuradhapura.

The Temple is open to everyone to visit. As at any place of Buddhist worship before entering the compound, pilgrims have to remove shoes and hats. Better go in white dress appropriately as a sign of respect. 


The Sacred Bodhi tree brought to Sri Lanka

After  the King Dewanampiyatissa was taught the values and principles of Buddhism by Arahat Mihindu thero, he ruled the country with the teachings took up by the Buddhism. Arhat Mihindu thero was son of Emperor Ashoka in India. After that King Dewanampiyatissa and King Ashoka became good friends. As a result,King Ashoka decided to give a sapling of the sacred Bodhi tree to the Sri Lankan king in good faith.

The sacred Bodhi sapling has been ceremonially brought to Anuradhapura by Arahant Sanghamitta Maha Therani (Daughter of King Ashoka) in 288 BC. King Dewanampiyatissa planted this Bodhi tree in the historical Mahamewuna Royal Park in Anuradhapura in the month of December. After short period, the original tree inn India was destroyed by Queen Thishyarakha, a wife of Emperor Dharmashoka observing a different faith.

Now Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is more than 2,300 years old age. It is one of the most sacred relics to the Buddhists around the world, as well as the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy. 

Seedlings from this Bodhi tree have been planted in temples throughout Sri Lanka and in another countries in the world. It is forbidden for a Buddhist to cut or harm any part of the tree. Before cut a Bodhi tree, they do some traditional customs and pooja.

To get better view, go there at night time and walk around the tree.Very peaceful experience and a lot to observe and learn. Not only see it also you can feel the calmness under the Sri Maha Bodhi.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

According to Mahavanshaya, the great record of the Sri Lanka, the city of Anuradhapura was named after a Minister called Anuradha who founded this area as a 'Graama' (village) settlement.

Anuradhapura is One of Eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It’s one of the most ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, which makes it no surprise that it’s named a UNESCO world heritage site title.

In 1073 AD this capital city was abandoned when the capital was transferred to Polonnaruwa.

Yathuru Pokuna(Key Pond)

How to Get from Colombo to Anuradhapura

The city of Anuradhapura is situated 206 km (129miles) away from Colombo and 57km (36miles) away from the Sigiriya Lion Rock in the north central province of Sri Lanka. When you want to get from Colombo to Anuradhapura, you have a many options to consider.

By Bus

Taking a bus from Colombo to Anuradhapura is cheaper than others. National Transport Commission operates a bus from Colombo Bastian Mawatha Bus Terminal to Anuradhapura 4 times a day. Tickets cost $3 - $6 and the journey takes 5-6 hours. Buses normally make bathroom and tea/snack stops along the way.

By Train

Sri Lanka Railways operates a train from Fort Station to Anuradhapura every 4 hours. Tickets cost $3 - $6 and the journey takes 3-4 hours. Book your tickets in advance in the Intercity express trains. First Class ticket is about 1000 LKR.($8.00) include WiFi and a choice of snacks and drinks. You can enjoy the beautiful scenery and fresh air comes through the opened windows.

By Taxi or Tuk Tuk

Catching a taxi is the easiest way to get from Colombo to Anuradhapura. Book a taxi or a Tuk tuk to take you from Colombo to Anuradhapura any time of the day.You can choose the type and the size of your vehicle according to the price and comfortable you'd like to.

Exploring Anuradhapura

This ancient city is a vast network of ancient temples, dagobas, pools, castles, tanks, Buddha statues, and many more things. All these shows us at the impressiveness of the city at height of its power during ancient eras. The picturesque ruins are spread out over a 40 sq kms(16 Sq miles) large area. The ruins of Anuradhapura are considered as one of South Asia’s most reminiscent sights. Today, several of the sites remain in use as holy places museums and temples, among them the most famous and most visited are the Eight Sacred Sites spotted in Anuradhapura.

The city also had some of the most complex irrigation systems of the ancient world. Most of the great reservoir tanks still survive today, and some many be the oldest surviving reservoirs in the world.The city is surrounded by 4 large man made reservoirs the largest of which is the 'Nuwara wewa'.Three other lakes are (Lake/tank) 'Thisa Wewa' ,Bulankulama Wewa and 'Basawakkulama Wewa'. West side of the city covered by Malwathu Oya(creek) flows through it.

Great development of Anuradhapura took place during the reigns of the iconic kings such as Dutugemunu, Walagamba, Wasabha, Mahasen and Dhatusena. Archeological excavations conducted in the inner city have discovered evidence of human settlements of the prehistoric era.

The eight great places of respect or 'Atamasthana' in Anuradhapura is a must visit. They are Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, Ruwanweliseya, Thuparamaya, Lowamahapaya, Abahaygiri Dagoba, Jethavanarama, Mirisawetiya Stupa and Lankaramaya.



This elegant little stupa was the first such monument in Sri Lanka and was built by King Devananpiyatissa in 3rd century BC to enshrine the Buddha's collarbone.The stupa was originally 'Heap of Paddy' shaped but was restored to the bell shape when it was renovated in 1862. It is surrounded by the pillars of a 'Watadage' which was added in the 7th century.


The Jetavanarama Stupa

The Jetavana stupa, is the largest stupa in the Buddhist world in both its dimensions and its mass. This dagoba orriginally stood over 100m(328 feet) high when it was constructed in 3rd century. It has been calculated that it is made up of 160 million bricks. At present the stupa is being renovated although the work it likely to take many years. According to the history, the Jetavanarama Dagoba was the 3rd tallest structure in the world after the pyramids in Egypt at the time of it was constructed.

Jetavanarama Stupa

Anuradhapura Tanks

Anuradhapura is surrounded by four tanks that were built to store water for the irrigation of fields surrounding the city. The largest of these tanks is Nuwara Wewa that lies to the east and is spread over an area of 120sq km(46sq miles) which was built around 20 BC. To the South lies the 160 ha(395 acres) Thisa Wewa, which was built by King Dewanampiyatissa. To the north is the oldest tank in Anuradhapura, the 120ha ( 296 acres) Basawakkulama Wewa, which is calculated to date back to the 4th century BC. Bulankulama Wewa is in west to the Malwatu Oya (Creek) flows through the city.

Isurumuniya Monastery

Isurumuniya Monastery is a Buddhist temple situated near to the Thisa Wewa. It was built by King Devanampiyatissa. The temple complex is small but really diverse and interesting. Isurumuniya is different to the other temples in Anuradhapura by unusual design and is well worth to visit. This place is globally famous for it's rock carving called "Isurumuniya Lovers". It is is a marvelous rock carving, a woman is seated on the man’s right leg and her legs are held tightly against each other. It is incredibly detailed art, dating back to the 8th Century AD. 

Isurumuniya Lovers


Don’t forget to visit adjacent Royal Park - Ranmasu uyana and Thisa Wewa. Ample parking and picturesque view. 


Ruwanweli Seya

The construction of this Dagoba began of King Dutugemunu in 2nd century BC, but he died before it could be completed. Then his brother Saddha Tissa created a false dome so that the dagoba covered with white clothes and appeared finished to the king as he lay on his deathbed. The ailing King Dutugamunu was very happy that the Stupa was completed. The Ruwanweliseya is adjacent to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya in the Mahamevuna Uyana.

The Ruwanweli Seya has a 90m (295ft) long diameter at the base and is 92 m (300 ft) high. The circumference is 292 m (950 ft ) long. The original stupa had been about 55 m tall (about 180 ft) and many ancient kings had renovated the Stupa.

Ruwanweli Seya

The relic chamber of the dagoba, which had never being archaeologically excavated is believed to contain a lots of sacred relics of Lord Buddha, treasured inside a pure gold relic chambers decorated with gold, silver and gems. According to the great sixth century Sinhala chronicle 'Mahavanshaya', strengthen the Ruwanweli Seya, that would stand the worst earthquake or natural disaster. The Ruwanweliseya is ranked among the tallest ancient monuments in the world. The Ruwanweliseya is one of the most honoured Stupas in Sri Lanka.


Lowamahapaya is a building situated between Ruwanweliseya and Sri Mahabodiya. This building was constructed as a chapter house for the Buddhist monks.

The famous Lowamahapaya built by King Dutugemunu, described as premises of nine storied building with a height of 150 ft (47 meters) and each side with a 150 feet (46 meters) length. There are 40 rows, each row consisting of 40 stone pillars, for a total of 1600 pillars. In each level there were 1000 rooms and 100 windows and roof was covered with copper-bronze plates. This amazing ruins showing how advance the ancient technology with limited mechanization succeeded in that era.


Samadhi Buddha Statue

Samadhi Buddha statue is considered a masterpiece of sculpture dated back to the 4th century and depicts the Buddha in the Samadhi ( a posture of deep meditation). This is a very well preserved buddha statue. It's all about fine art work made out of single piece of rock. It is 7 feet 3 inches in height and is a depiction of the spiritual purity and serenity of Load Buddha.

Samadhi Buddha Statue

Samadhi Buddha statue situated in Mahamewuna Uyana between Abhayagiri stupa and the twin ponds in Abayagiriya monastery complex. This Buddha statue is considered a masterpiece of sculpture. Proper dressing is necessary to cover shoulder and pants/ dress below knee with no shoes and hats allowed at the site.


Mirisawetiya dagoba is famous as one of the creations of King Dutugemunu who ruled the kingdom of Anuradhapura in 161-137 BC. This stupa is about 59 m (192 ft.) in height and 42 me (141 ft.) in diameter. There is a famous story behind the constructing of the  Mirisawetiya. 


King Dutugemunu took a vow to himself that whenever he consumed food, he would first offer very first portion to the Buddhist monks. However, it's said that the King once ate a chilli curry forgetting to first make an offering. In Sri Lanka chilli called as 'Miris'. As an apology for this mistake he later built this dagoba which became known as the Mirisawetiya and devoted it to the monastery. 

Kuttam Pokuna( Twin Ponds)

There are twin ponds right next to each other made out of granite which are located in the Abayagiri stupa complex. Kuttam means twin and Pokuna means pond, so it is literally the Twin Pond. This shows off the water engineering skills of the ancient Sri Lanka. 

Kuttam Pukuna (Twin Ponds)

These pools are huge. The twin ponds are in very good condition and maintained by the department of Archeology. Massive granite slabs, an underground duct with filtering system to bring water to the pool. The rock carvings and decorations around the massive pools is very interesting. It's very grand. This is definitely one of our highlights of Anuradhapura.


The sacred hill of Mihintale is where Arhat Mihidu,son of the Indian King Ashoka, converted King Dewanampiyatissa to Buddhism in 3rd century BC. It is said that King Dewanampiyatissa was chasing a stag during a hunting trip in the hill of Mihintale when he was approached by Arhat Mihidu, who wished to test the intelligence of the king with a riddle of mangoes. Having passed this test Arhat Mihidu then taught the king and his group of friends the Dhamma.

He was converted there and then along with his staff of 40,000 countries. An important religious site, Mihintale attracts a large number of Buddhists pilgrims, particularly on Poson Poya day in June. Exploring the site involves long climbs, so it is a good idea to visit it early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Walking towards the foot of the mountain you will arrive at the great stairway that leads up Mihintale. This stairway is 1000 feet long with 1840 steps and is one of the largest and most impressive flights of stairs to be seen anywhere. 

Mihintale stairway

There is an ancient hospital and here, Kantaka Chetiya, Aradhana Gala, Mahaseya Dagoba, Naga Pokuna , Lion Fountain and Eth Viharaya are the most famous attractions there. Kaludiya Pokuna is a beautiful place to relax and enjoy nature too. Mihintale is about 13km (8 miles) far from the city. But do not miss this place if you are panning your trip to Anuradhapura.


Today, the surviving inheritance are still spectacular even after thousands of years, and the sacred city of Anuradhapura is a top highlighted place on the must visit list of locals and foreign visitors.

Moonstone with carvings


Ruwanweli Seya

Abhayagiri Dagoba



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